In the sanctuary and the streets

The “what” of my dream is not unique, even among this group: I too dream of a church grounded in the Gospel, governed with love and mutuality and fully embracing all not in spite of gender, race, sexual orientation, or culture but because of the beauty of all of God’s children in community. I dream of a country and global community where the wealth of a very few does not take precedence over the well-being of so many. Quite frankly, I dream of a world in which a lot fewer white, wealthy, cis men hold all of the power. 

William Faulkner reminds us that, “some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame.” That is the church I long to be a part of–one that refuses to bear silently situations where those whom God adores are treated with injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. That would be the church that truly upholds the dignity of human life. That is a church that doesn’t take days to issue a lukewarm statement about George Floyd’s murder and systemic racism but can rattle off a condemnation of the Supreme Court decision to uphold LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace in a few hours. And while I know and love and often experience Catholic spaces where these things are true, the central authority and loudest representatives of the Catholic Church continue to stand on the wrong side of history and do a disservice to the radical Jesus of the Bible.

And so the ministry I envision going forth is one in which I use my gifts of gathering folks from different backgrounds under a common vision. I preach and learn the balance of prophetic and challenging messages with pastoral care and love from the pulpit. I visit and accompany friends along their life journeys in ways sacramental and not, for all of it is sacred and far from mundane. I baptize their babies, bless their marriages, grieve and celebrate their funerals alongside a congregation of co-creators and schemers in an attempt to live a Gospel-centered life, simultaneously loving, celebrating, and challenging our culture to care for one another. And not least of all, I too am empowered to preside and consecrate the Eucharist, not because my hands become magic and distinct from others, but because together we remember Jesus’s love and take up the call to feed others, going forth from our shared ritual of sacrifice and nourishment. 

I dream of embodying a priesthood that prays in both the sanctuary and the streets. Yes, I appreciate the aesthetics of a church designed to remind of the holy and prepare us for prayer, but I also find communion holding hands at protests and see chants for justice and peace like incense rising as our prayer to God. I dream of deep community for support and inspiration and a reminder that you cannot be a follower of Christ on your own. Just as God exists in three persons, we must depend on one another and support and scheme together. 

I probably should have just posted Wendell Berry’s classic Mad Farmer. I too, dream of practicing resurrection in Beloved Community. (I had it posted here but swapped it for brevity’s sake). I’ll quote from Mary Oliver’s When Death Comes:

“And therefore I look upon everything

as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,

and I consider eternity another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common as a field daisy and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth, tending as all music does, toward silence.

and each body a lion of courage, and something precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

4 thoughts on “In the sanctuary and the streets

  1. “I dream of deep community for support and inspiration and a reminder that you cannot be a follower of Christ on your own. Just as God exists in three persons, we must depend on one another and support and scheme together.”

    I like that you point this out, Angie. Western Christianity is so individualistic. We need to remember to center ourselves around this communal vision. When it comes to community, is there anything you believe the Catholic Church does differently from other denominations that if only we expanded on it or took it more seriously it would lead the Church a step closer to actualizing the Beloved Community?

  2. Dear Angie,

    You state your way of loving in the world with clear actions:
    I preach
    I accompany
    I preside and consecrate the eucharist

    Your powerful voice comes through on the page, and through your posts I experience you as a woman who has lived her journey with authenticity and authority, who has journeyed through questions to find a sense of surety (not the whole surety, since we never have that, but a healthy sense!) of her purpose.

    I also wonder what is the “growing edge” in your life? What are you holding in the space of the workshop? How can we accompany you?

  3. Angie, You have so many gifts to share. “I use my gifts of gathering folks from different backgrounds under a common vision.” I have tried to try to do this and I know that it’s not always easy. I want to think that gathering folks is a wonderful gift if you only did this in your life, I believe that would be enough. The Spirit will handle the rest.

    “I dream of embodying a priesthood that prays in both the sanctuary and the streets…I also find communion holding hands at protests and see chants for justice and peace like incense rising as our prayer to God…Just as God exists in three persons, we must depend on one another and support and scheme together.” This is exactly what our world needs now. The virus put our gathering on hold but has blessed us in other ways to be in the moment. I know that is not easy with children in the house.

    I would love to hear more more about how you gather and pray and serve others, maybe in our small group discussion.
    Thank you,
    -Barb Belle

  4. Such a beautiful vision, Angie, wrapped up in lovely poetic words from Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry. As I read, I think of wise words spoken to me by a professor from the BCSTM in a conversation about being a woman with leadership skills in the Catholic Church. “Ask forgiveness, not permission. Don’t assume you can’t do something – act.”

    Given this, as we move through goal-setting week, some wonderings:
    what do you need to move in the direction of this vision, specifically? what training, what formation, what opportunities?
    who walks with you on this road, in addition to your poetic companions, since (as you wisely name) “you cannot be a follower of Christ on your own”? What do you ask of Jesus, and what do you ask of those companions you name, as you step into embodying a priesthood (whether it is recognized by institutional structures or not)?

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